Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold suggested a ballot referendum on whether communities on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay support further study of a third span of the Bay Bridge.
Leopold, a Republican, broached the idea for a nonbinding vote Monday with the five Queen Anne's County commissioners but was met with immediate opposition. Rather, Anne Arundel officials said, the two sides agreed to hash out a plan to reduce traffic congestion on the bridge and ease overflow in neighboring areas.
"We both agreed that the growth pressures were going to increase, but no joint decision was reached," Leopold said.
Leopold has not taken a position on a third span or another crossing linking the Eastern and Western shores.
A state transportation authority task force formed to study the problem published a report last year that concluded another bay crossing is needed. However, it also showed that an additional bridge might only temporarily solve the problem, said George G. Cardwell, planning administrator for the county.
"What the study shows is even if you build another crossing in another location, the estimated travel demand by 2025 on a daily workday basis would exceed the capacity on the bridge," Cardwell said.
Residents in Bay Hills, Cape St. Claire and Whispering Woods say that at times traffic is unbearable.
"I would rather take a beating, rather than sitting out there in 90-degree weather in traffic," said Josephine Gardner, president of the Cape St. Claire Improvement Association. "When you're on a bridge, there's no place you can go. Route 50 is pretty much the same way."
Kathleen Benson of Bay Hills echoed Gardner's feelings about the congestion.
"We are pretty trapped around here," Benson said. "I am not the only one. I have friends who live closer to the bridge and can't get out of their driveway. The whole area at times is a parking lot."
Benson said her family often adjusts its schedule to beat the traffic crunch.
"If we go to Annapolis and can't get home by 4 p.m., we stay until 7," she said.
Cardwell attributed the traffic congestion to population and employment growth on both sides of the bridge.
Kent Island is on the east side of the bridge. The community has the same problems but has better access roads and overpasses around U.S. 50, so residents aren't forced to use it, Gardner said.
In the absence of additional bridges and crossings, Cardwell said, the county plans to encourage carpooling. The county also aims to improve local roads that surround the bridge.
Officials are considering two projects that they believe will help Queen Anne's County ease congestion on its end.
The Cox Neck Road Connector would run from Chester to Stevensville without going through U.S. 50. The road would run parallel to U.S. 50 and cross over Cox Creek, said Gene M. Ransom III, a Queen Anne's County commissioner. The Shamrock Road Connector would also cross over U.S. 50.
On the Arundel side of the bridge, Benson said, something has to be done, but she doesn't want another bridge near her neighborhood.
"We need two more crossings, but not here," Benson said.
Sun reporter Phillip McGowan contributed to this article.